Justin Chambers announced Friday that he'd left Grey's Anatomy after 16 seasons — and it was confirmed that his final episode already aired

By Breanne L. Heldman
January 10, 2020 07:26 PM

If Alex had to make his last save, at least it was saving Meredith.

While fans reel from the sudden news that Justin Chambers has left Grey’s Anatomy after 15 years and 16 seasons as Dr. Alex Karev — and won’t be getting the epic, heartbreaking sendoff one might expect for an original castmember — at least they can take solace in the character’s final scenes.

Chambers’ final episode aired on Nov. 14, one week ahead of the midseason finale where Alex’s absence was explained as him taking care of his ailing mother. But that episode was a big one, the show’s 350th, to be precise, and Alex’s final moments were nothing short of heroic.

In the installment, Meredith (Ellen Pompeo) faced the medical board to determine if she could have her medical license reinstated following an insurance fraud scandal. When one board member had a brain hemorrhage and was rushed to the hospital, the three remaining members declared that the hearing must be postponed. Alex insisted that they couldn’t because “these people have come from all over to speak for Meredith.” When the board wondered what “these people” Alex was talking about, a horde of Meredith’s former patients, including the probation work site officer she helped and her very first patient from the very first episode of the show, filed into the meeting room.

Justin Chambers on Grey’s Anatomy
| Credit: Kelsey McNeal/ABC

To further Meredith’s cause, Alex read letters from other doctors on Meredith’s behalf, including ones from Cristina Yang, Callie Torres, Addison Montgomery, April Kepner, and Arizona Robbins.

In his final frames, Alex was among his friends and colleagues as Meredith’s lawyer revealed that his efforts worked — and Meredith’s license was reinstated.

On Friday, ABC confirmed to PEOPLE that the 49-year-old original cast member had left the beloved medical drama.

“There’s no good time to say goodbye to a show and character that’s defined so much of my life for the past 15 years,” Chambers said in a statement. “For some time now, however, I have hoped to diversify my acting roles and career choices. And, as I turn 50 and am blessed with my remarkable, supportive wife and five wonderful children, now is that time.”

He added, “As I move on from Grey’s Anatomy, I want to thank the ABC family, Shonda Rimes, original cast members Ellen Pompeo, Chandra Wilson and James Pickens, and the rest of the amazing cast and crew, both past and present, and, of course, the fans for an extraordinary ride.”

Grey’s Anatomy returns Jan. 23 at 9 p.m. ET on ABC.